By: Mike Murphy, Manager of Alumni Services
Be wary of drinking occasions. Especially the holidays. Now we all know that holidays and family occasions can be rough. It’s an accepted societal norm that drinking will take place at the majority of these events. And Lord knows I took advantage of that societal norm. But, not all Holidays are created equal. And not all celebrate them.
Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day, and The Marine Corps Birthday were three very dark days for me. While a lot of people spend these days with friends, family, or other Veterans, I did not.
As I mentioned, these were dark days. And usually, where there was dark, there was isolation. For years, my way of “celebrating” these Holidays was by getting blackout drunk at a bar by myself. Or, because I was out in public and I knew the bartenders, I wasn’t really ALONE, right? RIGHT? And if I was around other people, let’s just say I wasn’t bringing anything of substance to the conversation.
See, it wasn’t that I was ashamed of my service or didn’t care. It was that I had lost my pride in it. For those of you that have read some of my previous blogs, I happen to live with something called, “Survivor’s Guilt”. And it stems from my 2003 Deployment to Iraq. When I finished my time in The Marine Corps, I decided to distance myself from that lifestyle as much as possible. I wouldn’t talk about it with people, I wouldn’t attend other Veteran gatherings, and I sure as hell wasn’t about to wear a piece of clothing suggesting I was a Veteran. I didn’t want people to know, because if they did, that would mean I would have to talk. And I wanted nothing to do with it. I remember I actually worked with a guy for almost four years before he found out I was a Marine.
For the most part, I did a great job of avoiding it. But, like most things; you can run and run and run. But sooner or later, it is going to catch up to you. And right around Memorial Day of 2020, it caught up to me. In typical fashion, I went to a bar, by myself, got blackout drunk, and don’t even remember leaving. Come to think of it, I never figured out if I paid. Crap. Another amends. Little did I know, that in just a few short weeks, I would be in treatment. And it would forever change my life.
When I got to treatment and started working with other Veterans, something started happening. Not only was I listening to others, but I was finally talking. To others just like me. Other Veterans going through the same thing I was. My sense of self-esteem started to come back. My sense of Veteran Pride started to come back. I was starting to heal.
Upon completion of treatment, I knew I had to continue the work I had only begun while at TTC. And I knew that meant being involved in Veteran’s Groups/Organizations. While AA is amazing, and I owe a tremendous amount to it, my alcoholism was only part of the equation. I needed to continue on my road of healing with other Veterans. Fortunately, I was able to find a few to work with. The 22 Project and Irreverent Warriors are the two main ones. And along the way, wouldn’t you know it, I found some other sober Devil Dogs (aka Marines. Look up the story online, it’s pretty cool)! You would be surprised how many are going through the same struggles as you. But, you will never know if you don’t start listening and talking.
When you hear people say, “We can’t do this alone” it’s for a reason. Not only can we not, but we don’t have to. There are so many others out there that are willing to help others. But nobody will know it unless we speak up. When I left TTC I said I wanted to do something down the road to help other Veterans battling the same demons I am. Fortunately enough for me, I get to do it at the very same place I learned how to help myself.
I hope you all had a very happy and insightful Memorial Day. And if any of you are ever struggling, please reach out. If not to The Alumni Team….to SOMEONE. We can’t do this alone.